Writing Alone

Last year I joined a writer’s group and it’s virtually the only one in my area. I had a lot of doubts about it because the members of the group are all white, all older than me, and appear to be in comfortable financial situations. I am the only Black person and the only Person of Color in the group, seemingly the only working class/poor person as well. I am also the only high fantasy, romance, and poetry writer, too.

At my very first meeting, casually racist and classist remarks (one of which was about Africa and ebola) were made by the other members. At another meeting I attended, the co-facilitator, one of two white guys, made a joke about not knowing what “a Black slave sounds like” after I voiced some concerns about my lack of desire to read one of the other white members’ work because it was from a book she had written which takes place during the expansion of white colonizers into the West in America; it includes both enslaved Black people with stereotyped names and “American Indians” championed by white saviors. That’s a whole other story in itself though.

Not wanting to give up too quickly out of my desire to be with other writers, I continued to attend meetings. One of the pros of the situation is that despite the group’s lack of racial and ethnic diversity, they tend to give fair feedback and are good writers themselves. I’m not the type of critic who gives a lot of technical feedback, instead I focus on how the writer’s work makes me feel and whether or not it gets me thinking–I offer that as feedback. I wasn’t sure that’s this is very helpful to the others since so many writers view the art of writing as a technical skill and process as if it has a precise formula. I view myself as an artist, not a technical writer or a businessperson trying to sell whatever I have as my main objective. I view my writing as a calling and an art.

I have no desire to continue to deal with their casual bigotry and ignorance, my stress level is high enough and I promised myself I wouldn’t force myself to educate and “mammy” people who don’t want to learn. However, I also don’t want to ride alone, or rather write alone. I don’t believe writing has to be a completely lonely process, as many have asserted that it is, that’s why I joined this group in the first place. I want to be around other writers.

Weighed down by heavy doubts about the group, stress, an unusual bout of illness this year, and helping with the birth of my nephew, I haven’t been back to meetings since late last year. They practice dropping people from the mailing list instead of asking them if they’re actually through with it and also changed the meeting location. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for me to go back but I don’t want to leave without some closure. It may better idea for me to continue writing alone.

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9 thoughts on “Writing Alone

  1. I’m really sorry that the writing group was not what you had hoped it would be. No one should have to deal with derogatory comments like you have! Have you thought about starting your own writing group in your area? Perhaps send out an announcement at your local library to see if anyone would be interested. Alternatively, what about online writing groups and forums? Best of luck to you and your goals! 🙂 Just keep writing!

  2. You are not alone. Writing is such a lonely profession that we do want/need a meeting place to share our techniques, ideas, etc. Like you, I began to attend a writing group maybe 5 months ago. It was organized by two African American women but quite obviously led by 4 Caucasian men. If it was a genre they didn’t understand/appreciate, they didn’t offer feedback. Instead they presented antagonistic questions. Once there, I realized that amongst the 12 people there, I was one of two that was actually published and experienced. I felt confident to confront and defend writers from their negative tone and posture. I only attended twice because I was not going to get what I needed from the group. Don’t give up! As writers we need to find support groups to “get out of our heads” sometimes. Seek a mentor if you can and always always always keep company with a book. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Hostile environments are never fun and it’s difficult to deal with the attitudes you describe, I’ve had plenty of experiences. Thank you, I’m going to see how things turn out.

  3. Sorry for your experience, but at least you were able to write it out here. Hell, that would make a good start of a story. I went to my second writing class just a couple Saturdays ago, and like you I was the only Black person (person of color period) and one of the younger ones. I had a pretty good experience though (but I’ve been in the awkward and offensive racial situations too). I plan to keep taking classes there but, I was thinking of starting a group for Black women writers too. It was a fleeting thought because I reached out to a few Black women writers in the past and didn’t even get one response.

    If you’re interested, maybe it’s something we can start. I write in different genres but sci-fi and fantasy (and poetry) are some of my fav as well. I think the beauty of groups is that everyone is different working towards common goals (to become better writers, etc.), and some discomfort may be inevitable. But I think a WOC writing group could be dope too…we’d still all be different of course, but having that common thread would be a nice for once.

    • I’d like that. It’s difficult find writers to work with on something like this, to respond and stay committed, I also know from experience. I’ve thought of starting groups online and offline but it’s rare to find writers who are interested, particularly for Black women writers. Maybe we could exchange emails?

      • Hey I just happened to visit your blog, and saw that you responded to this comment. Sorry for the late reply. I didn’t even see this response. I “recently” switched to a self-hosted site and kind of neglected my blog in the meantime…anyway, emailing you now.

  4. Fresno Writer’s Group–Why I’m Quitting – Sepia Heaven

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